If you’ve searched for travel on Google recently, you’ll know it’s even easier than using metasearch sites.
To find flights, users can simply type in their to and from destinations, along with the word “flights” into the main search bar. Google will then present them with all flight options, the airline providers, and a handy drop-down calendar to edit the dates. Additionally, the hotel search feature has been around for years. Travelers can search for a city plus the word “hotel” (or alternatively, directly in Google Maps) and all the available options will appear.
No matter whether you’re using a mobile or desktop device, it’s a quick and painless process to find the best value travel combinations with Google – and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. In fact, Google (along with the Onsite Property Management Association or OPMA) have been beta testing a new service which allows vacation rentals to show in these accommodation search results.
Made possible through advanced technology integrations, OPMA members have seen around $1.2 million in revenue from bookings since the beta program was launched last year.
How does Google display vacation rentals?
Just as it does with flights and hotels, Google displays search results for vacation rentals as a comparison shop. In certain destinations, guests can actively select the accommodation type as “vacation rentals” instead of hotels. Doing so brings up some private accommodation options, but it is currently not as extensive as other OTAs with much more offerings.
How to get your website ready for Google vacation rentals
It is thought that in order for a vacation rental to appear in Google searches, a Google Card will be required. There are some other requirements which will help your vacation rental website show up in SERPs. Here is what to take into account:
1. Have one URL for each rental property
All of your properties may be listed on the same website, but they will each need their own URL.
This makes it easier for Google to identify them as different vacation rentals and will help them to appear as such in search results.
2. Ensure you have clean URLs
A clean URL is a web address which is easy for humans to read, understand and type. Those listed above are good examples of clean URLs.
Dirty URLs, on the other hand, contain question marks and other query parameters. As a general rule, search engines actively ignore these types of URLs or rank these pages lower. Not only is this very bad for your website’s SEO, but it will also spoil any chances of your property showing up in vacation rental search results.
3. Create an optimized and verified Google My Business listing
Although Google My Business community manager, Allyson Wright, confirms that the Google My Business guidelines remain unchanged for the moment (i.e. vacation rentals are not allowed), this pilot has permitted the surfacing of a limited number of listings across specific locations.
Given that the search engine wants a Google Card for each property, it seems owners will have to be on Google My Business in order to appear. For the time being, if you decide to create your listing and Google rejects it (or other users report it), this is at your own risk.
You could, however, start preparing your listing now. That way, you will be ready if or when the rules change in the near future.
4. Have an SSL certified website
Since early 2017, Google began to penalize websites that weren’t secure (in other words, those which lacked HTTPS and SSL encryption). Ensuring your website has these security certificates now will make it much easier when Google vacation rentals officially launches. Having HTTPS on your website also protects guests’ data from hackers or cyber attacks. This makes the booking process a lot smoother and safer for everybody.
What will Google vacation rentals mean for OTAs?
First and foremost, as Google enter the vacation rental market, it’s highly likely to affect advertising costs for the big listing sites.
Currently, OTAs monopolize the first paid and organic search results for major vacation destinations and keywords.
However, with the Google vacation rentals rollout, it will be interesting to see if they can maintain these positions – or if their ad spend will have to increase tenfold to keep up with the competition of smaller, individual owners.
Additionally, the comparative nature of Google’s travel search results means that guests will automatically be able to find the best price for their stay. This is great news for both guests and vacation rental owners alike.
Owners already know that the guest will find the best price when they book direct on their website, as they will be saving the service fees set by OTAs which can range from 6-18% in some cases. However, Google will spare owners and managers the job of educating guests about the many advantages of booking direct, as it will be clear where the best deal is. Watch this space!